Browsing History and Archaeology by Subjects
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Commerce and Consumers: The Ubiquitous Chest of the Late Middle AgesContrary to their ubiquity within written, visual, and material sources, chests have largely remained overlooked in studies of the late Middle Ages. Bill Brown’s “thing theory” helps to explain the ways in which chests can transform from unnoticed “things” in the background to meaningful “objects” when viewed through their entanglements with commercial, consumer, political, and moral concerns. The interdisciplinary study of chests in the late Middle Ages brings together a range of evidence including inventories, guild accounts, court pleas, contemporary writings, images, and material culture from Burgundy, France, and England.
The household inventory as urban 'theatre' in late medieval BurgundyIn 1413 at the death of his wife Guillemot, Jean Aubert, a group of witnesses and a clerk of the local mayoralty met to value the possessions of their residence, resulting in an inventory full of notes and values on rooms and their objects. Within the existing historiography of the Burgundian Netherlands and its Northern European neighbours, inventories and their objects tend to be analysed from two perspectives: the Burgundian court and the ‘consumer revolution’. Applying insights from Erving Goffman and Bruno Latour, this article suggests a third perspective should have priority: the urban ‘theatre’ within which objects were documented and placed. Therefore it sets up an alternate methodology which begins with the inventory to build a picture of the theatre (the urban context and residence), the actors (the Aubert family) and the audience (the witnesses of the inventory) to establish new insights on the operation of Burgundian power and the dynamics of the ‘consumer revolution’.
Objects as Dynastic Agents: Burgundian Inventories of Philip the Bold and Margaret of FlandersAt the start of the fifteenth century, two dynastic inventories were compiled, prompted by the death of two key European rulers. The first came into being on the death of Philip the Bold, duke of Burgundy in 1404, the second on the death of his wife Margaret of Flanders, less than a year later in 1405. These two dynastic inventories, preserve references to thousands of moveable objects, but still remain underexplored by historians. This article will reassess these inventories in light of the ‘material turn’ to reconstruct the political ‘theatres’ and ‘actors’ involved in their construction. In addition, it will examine the objects of the inventories to reveal the ways in which they operated as agents of dynastic power, maintaining and creating networks of social relations at a critical political moment for the Burgundian dynasty.